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HIV/AIDS

Related Terms

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Background

  • The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that potentially causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV primarily attacks the immune defense system, making the patient extremely vulnerable to opportunistic infections, which are infections that occur in people who have weakened immune systems.
  • HIV primarily infects and destroys immune cells with the CD4 receptor protein on their cell surfaces (also called CD4-positive or CD4+ T-cells). Healthy individuals have a CD4 cell count between 600 and 1,200 cells per microliter of blood. HIV patients have less than 600 CD4 cells per microliter of blood.
  • Patients progress to AIDS when/if their CD4 cell counts drop to lower than 200 cells per microliter (one-one millionth of a liter) of blood. This may happen if a person does not receive adequate treatment or if he/she develops a serious infection or illness. Individuals with a CD4 cell counts lower than 200 have the greatest risk of developing potentially fatal opportunistic infections, such as Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infections, because their immune systems are very weak.
  • HIV is transmitted from person to person via bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. Therefore, it can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles/syringes with someone who is infected, through breastfeeding, during vaginal birth, or, less commonly, through transfusions with infected blood. However, in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies, HIV infection is rarely transmitted through blood transfusions. Very low amounts of HIV have been found in saliva and tears in some AIDS patients. However, contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has not been shown to result in HIV transmission.
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Pathology

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Demographics

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Transmission

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Signs and Symptoms

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Complications

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Integrative Therapies

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Prevention

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Research and Clinical Trials

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Support Groups

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.